- NAME: Tito Puente
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Conductor
- BIRTH DATE: April 20, 1923
- DEATH DATE: May 31, 2000
- EDUCATION: The Juilliard School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- AKA: Ernest Anthony Puente
- Full Name: Ernesto Antonio Puente Jr.
- Nickname: "Musical Pope"
- AKA: Tito Puente
- Nickname: "El Rey de los Timbales"
- Nickname: "King of Latin Jazz"
- Nickname: "King of the Timbales"
- AKA: Ernest Puente
- Nickname: "El Rey"
- Nickname: "The King"
- Nickname: "Sultan of Salsa"
Best Known For
Tito Puente was a musical pioneer, mixing musical styles with Latin sounds and experimenting in fusing Latin music with jazz.
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In 1979, he created a scholarship fund for Latin percussionists at the Juilliard School. "The scholarship was a dream of mine for a long time," Puente later said, explaining, "In the Latin community, we have a lot of gifted youngsters who don't get an opportunity to develop their talent because of a lack of money. Long after, I'm gone, the fund will be helping kids."
More than a decade later,
Oscar Hijuelos created a character based on Puente for his 1989 novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (Puente appeared as himself in the 1992 film adaptation of the book). Around this same time, the jazz musician guest-starred on several television shows, including The Simpsons.
By the end of his decades-long career, Tito Puente, sometimes called the "King of Latin Jazz" or simply "El Rey" ("The King"), had made an indelible mark on the popular culture. In addition to making more than 100 albums and creating more than 200 compositions, Puente had become a highly revered musician, regarded as a musical legend in Latin music and jazz circles.
Tito Puente died on May 31, 2000, at the age of 77, in a New York City hospital where he was awaiting heart surgery. Adored by fans across the globe, several supporters waited in line for days to say goodbye to the popular bandleader. He was survived by wife Margaret Acencio, his partner for 30 years; their two children, Tito Jr., a musician, and Audrey, a newscaster; and a son named Richard, also a musician, from his earlier relationship to Ida Carlini.
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